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Federal agents executed “a series of search warrants” on President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer Michael Cohen on Monday, according to Cohen's lawyer and prompting outrage from Trump.
“Today the US Attorney’s Office for the Southern District of New York executed a series of search warrants and seized the privileged communications between my client, Michael Cohen, and his clients,” Cohen's lawyer, Stephen Ryan, said in a statement. “I have been advised by federal prosecutors that the New York action is, in part, a referral by the Office of Special Counsel, Robert Mueller.”
Trump responded to the news of the searches before meeting with his top military leadership, calling the action “a disgraceful situation.”
“I have this witch hunt constantly going on,” the president said, adding, “When I saw this, when I heard about it, that is a whole new level of unfairness. … They raided the office of a personal attorney early in the morning. It's a disgrace. So we'll be talking about it more.”
The special counsel's office and the US attorney's office in Manhattan declined to comment on the execution of the warrants. The search of Cohen's office was first reported by the New York Times.
In his Monday evening comments, Trump returned to several regular sources of his criticism, calling the special counsel's office “the most conflicted group of people I have ever seen.” He also continued his longstanding attacks on Attorney General Jeff Sessions for having recused himself from the Russia investigation, saying “he made what I consider to be a very terrible mistake for the country.” Trump also said no one “is looking at the other side,” referring to his oft-raised interest in Hillary Clinton's deleted emails and “many, many other things.”
According to the Wall Street Journal, the office, home and Manhattan hotel room of Cohen were searched. Multiple outlets, including the New York Times, reported on the office search, and Vanity Fair reported on the hotel search.
Cohen, who was a senior lawyer with the Trump Organization until after the election, did not respond to a request for comment.
“The decision by the US Attorney’s Office in New York to conduct their investigation using search warrants is completely inappropriate and unnecessary,” Cohen's lawyer, Ryan, said in his statement. “It resulted in the unnecessary seizure of protected attorney client communications between a lawyer and his clients. These government tactics are also wrong because Mr. Cohen has cooperated completely with all government entities, including providing thousands of non-privileged documents to the Congress and sitting for depositions under oath.”
According to the US Attorney's Manual, the set of guidelines for federal prosecutors, seeking a search warrant to search an attorney's office is unusual and requires specific standards to be met. Alternative means of obtaining the information must be considered, the warrant application must be approved by the relevant US Attorney or Assistant Attorney General, and the federal prosecutor involved must consult with DOJ's Criminal Division. What's more, if the warrant is relating to the representation of clients, even more restrictions apply — including that Criminal Division authorization is required.
The US Attorney for the Southern District of New York is Geoffrey Berman, and he was appointed to the role in January by Sessions. Berman, a Trump supporter and former law partner at Rudy Giuliani's firm, also was the White House's pick for the slot and reportedly met with Trump about the role — but he is yet to be nominated for it.
In recent months, Cohen's name has mainly been in the news in relation to his role in signing a settlement agreement with Stormy Daniels on behalf of the company he set up to pay her $130,000 in exchange for her to stay silent about her alleged relationship more than a decade ago with Trump. Daniels, the adult film star whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, has sued Trump and the company, as well as Cohen, in an attempt to have the agreement tossed out.
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